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Dogs over Motherhood
Mom with a View

Dogs over Motherhood

Puppies are a lot easier.

by

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes this headline from the New York Post (04/10/14), “More young women choosing dogs over motherhood.”

Now it’s true that when we’ve had a particularly rough time with one of our kids, my husband has been heard to say in jest, “Puppies would have been easier,” but these women actually mean it. “It’s just less work and, honestly, I have time to go out,” says one 30-year-old.

“Dogs are better,” says another. “A dog is easier to transport than a child.”

Easier, less work – this seems to be the unifying theme.

It’s not that I don’t understand (especially on some of those aforementioned tough days!), but unfortunately, these women don’t know what they’re missing – and seem unlikely to find out.

While not judging all the women who own the 40.8 million small dogs in America, yes, dogs are easier (fish are easier still!). But who said the goal of life is to do what’s easiest?

Marriage and children are the two most powerful opportunities for growth that we have in this world. Dogs don’t force you to dig deep, to find those hidden resources when you think you don’t have any more, to constantly put someone else’s needs before your own, to grow in compassion and selflessness.

And, even though we don’t welcome those nighttime feedings or two a.m. runs to the emergency room, it’s during these moments we discover who we truly are and our expansive capacity for love. It’s those times when we sit with them, just hugging them when someone breaks their heart or support our spouses when dreams are shattered that we grow, that we become truly loving and truly giving.

The Torah teaches us that the first man, Adam, named all the animals. He got to know the essence of each one and, in so doing, he recognized that none would be a suitable mate. His giving to the animals wouldn’t be meaningful enough because it wouldn’t be demanding enough.

Not only would they not appreciate it (there’s only so much emotion that can be conveyed through a wagging tail) but Adam wouldn’t have to dig down as deeply, wouldn’t have to harness untapped resources and discover unrealized potential.

It wouldn’t be as transformative. Yes, it would certainly be easier but what an opportunity missed.

Before the hate mail starts, let me clarify. I’m NOT saying that no one should have pets. I’m just suggesting that the role of pets is more limited than that of children and that the opportunity for personal growth is much more limited.

And I am also not saying that every single person should have a child. I recognize the fact that this is not going to be everyone’s choice, and that some people are not cut out for parenting. But the choice should be a carefully examined one.

Frequently when a family grows from one child to two, the parents are concerned. Will they ever be able to love that second child the way they love their first? And then they discover that their love is not a finite quantity and that their capacity to love is so much greater than they had imagined.

Without any children at all, not only is this insight unrealized but this tremendous capacity for love remains untapped, leaving us all a little poorer. (Those who desire children and are unable to have them are very different and frequently channel their love to their students or children in need and of course are able to learn and grow through the experience.)

Of course it’s an individual choice. And while the opportunity to own a dog is almost never foreclosed, the same is not true of having children.

I’d hate to see these young women discover in 20 or 30 years from now that they made the wrong choice and that, in fact, it is not true that a dog “brings her as much joy as a baby would.”

Published: April 26, 2014


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Visitor Comments: 21

(13) Anonymous, May 1, 2014 1:43 PM

Pets over Parenthood

While marriage and family is the foundation of society, not everyone is fit for the role of being a parent. While those who opt to have pets instead children are considered to be selfish and foolhardy, they are entitled to make their own choices as we are. Yes we are encouraged to get married and reproduce but there are those who are put off by that idea. I would love to have a pet too but pets are not meant to replace children. But guilt-tripping those for choosing not to have children doesn't accomplish matters either. There are plenty of people I know who never wanted to have children but surrendered to peer, communal, and parental pressure. Nothing good came from it. Children deserved to be loved, desired, and wanted. I agree that these women's decisions to be pet owners instead of mothers is sad and pathetic but parenthood is not for everyone. You may feel that they are missing out on the ultimate joys of life but they may beg to differ. I have been told that I am missing out on not being a parent as much as I am missing out on not being wealthy and successful. There are those who choose not to have children and regret it as there are those who have children and wish they never did. It isn't society's responsibility not prerogative to dictate to people how they should live their lives. Nor is it anyone's business to tell others what they are lacking in life. If there are people content with not having kids at all, so be it. Would you appreciate people complaining or ridiculing you for having "too many" kids or calling you a baby breeding machine? Live and let live.

ruthiel, May 1, 2014 7:02 PM

I simply like your comment

I agree

KR, May 8, 2014 6:12 AM

missing the point

Everyone is entitled to make his/her own choices, however, we are also entitled to a. learn from others' choices and b. present our opinions to give a message to the next generation of, hopefully, future parents. True, of course those who do not want children and will therefore not be good parents, should not become parents. Parenting is a huge responsibility, and one should not have children that they can not raise properly and with love. However, there is something to be said for decrying the attitude of "I don't want to work. I want an easy life. I want to be selfish and not have to extend myself to my children." There is a value in explaining the beauty and benefit of having children. Mrs. Braverman is not DICTATING to others how to live their lives. She is expressing an opinion that she believes people should have children. In fact, it is a mitzva in the Torah (for a man, a woman naturally wants children more) to have children. So there is no arguing with that. However, I must say, if you don't want Mrs. Braverman to express her opinion that people should have children, then why do you have the right to espouse the fact that you don't think it is a blanket rule? (among normal, healthy potential parents) If SHE can't dictate to others how to feel, why in the world can YOU tell her not to tell anyone how she feels? she wasn't dictating, but YOU ARE! And I shall end: please don't express your opinion, everyone is entitled to make their own choices about what to say, so just live and let live.

(12) Anonymous, May 1, 2014 8:03 AM

Cats over kids any day of the week

I decided at 19 years old I didn't want kids and have never regretted that decision and I'm nearly 47 years old. Some people are just not cut out for parenthood or don't want the responsibility. Too bad many people find that out after having kids. I find it crazy to think that every woman should be a mother, and this website not only pushes the idea, it promotes and considers it the ideal. The whole idea of motherhood makes me grateful I am not maternal. I channel what minimal maternal feelings I have into my pets. The give immense satisfaction, company, and love. To the moms out there, congratulations on your parenthood and I hope you are fulfilled by it. But please don't think that everyone wants it or needs it for fulfillment.

Anonymous, May 1, 2014 9:09 AM

Except for the comment about the web site, this is a cogent, smart comment. I would hope that writer of this comment would expect nothing less from a web site dedicated to Jewish ideals that it would promote family, maternal and paternal concepts. I acknowledge that not every Jew is 'cut out' to be a dad or mom; I am sure that somewhere on the vast World Wide Web are sites dedicated to this.

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